20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Nikola Tesla


Nikola Tesla is widely recognized as one of the greatest engineers and innovators of the 19th and 20th centuries. And in honor of what would be his 163rd birthday, let’s celebrate with 20 facts you likely never knew about him.

20 facts you probably didn’t know about Nikola Tesla

  1. Tesla was born in 1856 in present-day Smiljan, Croatia. At the time, Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  2. Tesla contracted cholera when he was 17 years old and was on bed rest for nine months.
  3. Tesla’s first job was as a drafter at an engineering firm in Slovenia.
  4. Tesla spoke eight languages: Serbian, English, Czech, German, French, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin.
  5. In addition to studying both math and physics at the Technical University of Graz, Tesla also studied philosophy at the University of Prague.
  6. Tesla claims the idea of alternating currents came to him in a vision.
  7. Tesla immigrated to the United States in 1884 when he was 28 years old.
  8. Tesla arrived in New York in 1884 and started working as an engineer for Thomas Edison.
  9. After Edison refused to pay Tesla for his work, Tesla abruptly quit. This caused a lifelong feud between the two innovators.
  10. When Tesla couldn’t find work after quitting his job at the Edison Company, he had to dig ditches for $2 per day.
  11. Tesla and the American author Mark Twain were friends. In 1894, Tesla took a photo of Twain in one of the first pictures ever lit by phosphorescent light.
  12. In 1895, Tesla’s lab in New York burned down, destroying years’ worth of notes, equipment, and models.
  13. In 1901, Tesla partnered with J.P. Morgan and gave up 51% interest in his patents and inventions in exchange for funding.
  14. Tesla claimed he invented a death ray called the Teleforce.
  15. In 1915, word spread that both Tesla and Edison were going to be honored with the Nobel Prize for physics. However, neither man received the prize. It was rumored that Tesla refused to share it with Edison.
  16. In 1916, at 60 years old, Tesla filed for bankruptcy.
  17. Tesla was known to be extremely fond of pigeons. He even fell in love with one writing, “I loved that pigeon as a man loved a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”
  18. Tesla had an obsessive personality and was fixated on the number three.
  19. Tesla had upwards of 300 patents worldwide and 111 were issued in the U.S.
  20. Tesla died in 1943. He was 86 years old.
sculpture of Nikola Tesla

Madie Norris Forcier
About the Author

SolidProfessor content writer and self-appointed World’s Greatest Dog Mom